As of April 2021, plans for Sydney Harbour Bridge’s long-awaited northern cycleway are being deliberately withheld from the general public partly because the state government can’t cope with the volume of expected feedback.
Despite remaining largely silent on their plans, three years since community opposition sidelined the project, transport bureaucrats say releasing a range of new designs would have “real potential to generate premature and untimely discussion among the community.”
Up to 2,000 cyclists per day are forced to haul their bikes up and down 55 stairs at the northern end of the bridge, excluding less able riders and those carrying children, with the state’s peak advocacy group saying the government didn’t appear interested in finalising the cycleway upgrade of Australia’s most iconic structure.
“No, they’re not telling us much,” Bicycle NSW’s general manager of corporate affairs Bastien Wallace said. “It doesn’t seem to be a huge priority. It seems to have been largely parked.”
Transport for NSW has shown the designs to a select group of stakeholders, including North Sydney Council and local Milsons Point residents, who have been sworn to secrecy.
The department refused a Herald freedom-of-information request to see the options, saying it wasn’t in the public interest to release them as it could upset the consultation process and prejudice the delivery of the project, including by public comment being received before that of the relevant stakeholders, and exposing participating private entities.
“The SHB (Sydney Harbour Bridge) is a significant Australian landmark and any work which is conducted to, adjacent to, or affecting it will be the subject of intense public scrutiny and interest,” the departmental response said.
A Transport representative said that, as the documentation discussed such a significant landmark, “this could reasonably be expected to generate a large volume of communications to TfNSW and other entities” and the department wasn’t prepared to “deal with the anticipated volume of communications.”
The representative acknowledged that informing the public about TfNSW’s policies and practices concerning the cycleway was a factor in favour of releasing the material, but said the options would be shown to the public “in due course”.
The refusal was made despite departmental documentation produced in December indicating the broader community would be consulted during the second quarter of this year.
When asked if the options would be released to the public in the second quarter, a TfNSW spokesperson said, “Transport for NSW is taking the time to get the designs right.”
The department did release documents that showed upgrading the cycleway would increase its capacity from between 600 and 900 riders an hour, to up to 2000 an hour.
A longer version of this article first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, authored by Angus Thompson
On Monday 3rd May the new plans were finally revealed. See our separate article here.